Woods-N-Water News Weekend scores big
Families flock to fairgrounds for 23rd annual show
October 01, 2009
IMLAY CITY — Whether it was leaping canines, flying arrows, the latest in outdoor equipment or playful puppies, the Woods-N-Water News Outdoor Weekend Sept. 11-13 had something for everyone.
It was the 23rd annual show at the Eastern Michigan Fairgrounds and event founder Randy Jorgensen and Woods-N-Water News Editor Tom Campbell believe it may have been the largest crowd in the event's history.
While neither could provide an official attendance figure, it can be surmised that thousands passed through the gates Friday through Sunday; all of them to enjoy dozens of outdoor-related exhibits and activities geared to appeal to outdoor lovers of all ages.
"We're so thankful the weather cooperated," said Campbell. "The sunshine and blue skies set the stage for a tremendous weekend.
"We like to measure the event's success by the enjoyment shared by the attendees. It seemed like everybody had a great time and we heard a lot of positive feedback."
Among the most popular attractions was former Detroit Tiger pitcher Milt Wilcox's Ultimate Air Dogs, who regardless of the distance they jumped, drew wild cheers from the audience.
Other highlights included the Frontier and Civil War encampments, X-Factor Archery's 3-D Shoot, Bill Yoder's big bucks display, Reg Pettibone's Native Indian dance and cultural presentation, and the Puppy Tent, where hundreds gathered to look at, pet or purchase a brand-new "best friend."
On Saturday, the annual Chili Cook-Off drew a big crowd to the beer tent, where 22 competitors challenged for $750 in cash and the title of "best chili cook."
The 2009 championship went to Dawn Bigham and Dee Sumiec of Novi, whose Trailside Chili recipe won over the hearts (and possible heartburn) of the expert judges; including Imlay City Mayor Rodney Warner, who could occasionally be seen dabbing the sweat from his brow.
Afterward, Bigham noted she had been trying to win the event for 19 years; having come close in 1998 with a second-place finish.
When the announcement came, Bigham, Sumiec and their enthusiastic supporters screamed loudly and raised their arms in celebration.
Second place went to Pedro's Parents; third place was won by Mitch and Zack; and the showmanship award went to Dory Packett.
Also on hand for the Chili Cook-Off was Marine Pvt. Jesse Raska, 19, of Capac, who attended the event in his dress uniform.
Having just graduated from Marine basic training on Friday, Sept. 11, Raska made the trip home to support his parents, John and Lori Raska, who were competitors in the cook-off.
Though a local resident, Pvt. Raska said it was his first time at the Woods-N-Water News Outdoor Weekend.
"I'd never been here before," said Raska. "It's a great time and it's really good to be back home with my family."
After a few more days of leave, he'll report to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina on Sept. 22 and begin his training as an aviation mechanic.
Nearly 200 vendors were on hand, touting every imaginable product related to hunting, fishing and the outdoor lifestyle.
Several well-known outdoor experts were in attendance, including: Ed Spinazzola, Terry McBurney, Dennis Neely, Charlie Linblade and Fred and Greg Abbas, and Steve Francis, owner of the Country Smoke House in Almont.
On Saturday and Sunday, Francis demonstrated how to field dress and skin a deer, along with offering butchering tips and tactics.
In the aftermath of another successful Woods-N-Water News Outdoor Weekend, Campbell expressed his appreciation to everyone who shared in coordinating and hosting the event.
"I want to thank our staff and volunteers; the Eastern Michigan Fair Board and fair manager Ian Kempf; the Imlay City Police and Fire departments, Imlay City Rotary and Eagles clubs; and our local Boy Scouts for their extraordinary assistance and participation.
"All of their efforts and support were amazing," Campbell continued. "I'm not sure that Randy (Jorgensen) had any idea that what he founded and started 23 years ago, would develop into an event of this magnitude. It's been great and I'm proud to be a part of it."